A fresh run covering an uncharted course is like an adventure. My past trail runs with my running buddies is a testament of this adventure, running thru unknown territory and every step we take, we uncover the sights and serenity of nature as we also uncover and expose pieces of our own selves. A new course, a new exploration, some positive expectations and the unknown…probabilities that face the adventure seeker.
An adventure thru concrete jungle and a one-time familiar distance which i have not returned to since last Sunday. This was what awaited me and thousands of other runners in the 21k Condura Run for the Whale Sharks (and Skyway) last March 22 starting and ending at The Fort. Running the distance alone makes it a challenge for me as this will be my first 21k race after about 20 years. The climbs on Kalayaan bridge will again be arduous. The long stretch of Buendia Avenue will be hot with only the tall buildings lined up on its west side providing the shade and the motorists will again rear its ugly heads with impatience as they honk their horns continuously to pass thru. And finally, the approach to the Skyway, an unknown, probing quest.
Two Sundays ago, I together with the Takbo.ph runners tested our mettle in running the 21k distance, the LSD (Long Slow Distance) way whereby we tackled the Hills of Mckinley and the slow winding uphills of Bayani Road in Taguig, a preparation that truly simulated race conditions like running in hot weather, the volume of liquids to be taken to keep us hydrated, problems with our running gears that may cause chaffing or irritation, running up hills, etc. The runs were only interrupted when we replenished our Hydration belts with energy drinks/water and took some power bars and the low cost alternative but equally effective Choco-Mucho. Looking back at this run, i think we made a fair assessment of ourselves, our strong points and weaknesses and made the necessary adjustments on race day.
The 21k race was to start at exactly 5:30am so running buddy June (who was running the 10k), Darryl (21k) and myself arrived at the venue a few minutes before 5am with still plenty of time to warm-up and stretch. There was an unusually large number of runners already in the vicinity of the starting line, wary perhaps of the strict 5:30am start. When all runners were checked-in, i estimated the 21k group would have reached a thousand runners, maybe more. The space chute accorded to the 21k group was so crowded that runners were standing elbow to elbow with each other.
I had already figured out a plan and a goal. The plan was to go out slowly and settle to an even pace of 6:30-7:00 mins/km. The goal was to finish at around 2hrs & 30mins. I felt i was in good shape, having slept well the night before and i felt relaxed being with my Runnex club team mates, Betty, Tonnette and Dee at the starting line. After the gun was fired, i ran cautiously, not repeating the disastrous kamikaze-like start i did at the Amadeo Coffee Run in Amadeo, Cavite a month ago. i had to reserve my energy since this was going to be a long race. The first four (4) kilometers passed easily including the uphill climb to Kalayaan Bridge on our way to Buendia. Runners were now adjusting to their paces. A two-wheeled “trolley” commandeered by a runner passed by us that drew laughs. Motorists were now emerging from the streets waiting patiently for us to pass thru. The patience would wear off on our way back. At around the 7th km. at the end of Buendia Avenue when we turned left to a side street perpendicular to Osmena Hiway, we saw different support groups with their own artillery of mineral water, energy drinks, choco bars, pebble-hard jelly beans among others, placed in each vehicles’ trunks and hoods ready to arm their runners with these essentials. A hundred meters more was the entrance to the Skyway.
Kilometers Completed: 7.5k / Elapsed Time: 47:25 / Mind: Relaxed but still excited / Body: Strong and going toe to toe with the rest / Overall: The cautious approach worked well. Was ready to tackle the Skyway.
The much ballyhooed entrance incline into the Skyway which sowed much fear and concern for runners in their first ever run atop that structure was NOT that imposing or difficult climb after all. Several reasons might be attributed to this: First, it seemed that runners were mentally and physically prepared to tackle any hill or steep inclines as they surely must have included this in their training. Secondly, was that the approach was only on the 7th kilometer of the run so bodies were still strong and fresh to tackle such incline and thirdly, it wasn’t so much of a steep climb where the grade was gradually moderate even if it was about 250 meters long.
The run atop the Skyway was however, a different experience altogether. The scenery of warm bodies running along the 4 kilometer stretch was a bit cinematic, it not surreal. The scene was like a sci-fi flick wherein dozens of space ships suddenly emerged from the skies landing at the base of the skyway and letting out a swarm of martians, bolting out of the doors and invading the whole stretch of the freeway.
The North bound lane of the freeway was entirely closed to vehicles and the wide 3-lane structure was all concrete/cement, no trees, no dirt ground and no shade to protect the runners from the glowing heat of the sun. Sponges soaked in ice-cold water were abundant and a fire truck was stationed at the middle of the freeway that sprinkled the runners with water like a giant shower.
One runner who was just a few feet in front grabbed two sponges and placed it inside his running shorts. i then commented to him that it was a great way to cool down his crotch and thighs at the same time. He replied back smiling, “Oh, the sponges? Well, i was planning to take it home with me and use it to wash the dishes when i get home!” The ever resourceful Pinoy!
Kilometers Completed: 10.5k / Elapsed Time: 1:08:44 / Mind: Still oozing with confidence and ready to tackle the second half / Body: A little tired but was still kicking a few arses / Overall: Pace and goal still on target. Hoping to sustain the momentum.
Traversing down the ramp on my way back to the level ground of Buendia, i decided to stop at one of the support groups stationed by Takbo.ph. However, since i wasn’t wearing their black official singlet, i had to say a special password (given to me by Doc Lyndon, one of the organizers of the support group) to those in charge of the station so they could give me what i needed. i wanted a choco-bar. i slowed to a jog upon nearing their vehicle and when i was in front, i suddenly forgot what the password was! i was grappling for the magic word but couldn’t get hold of the word. it suddenly occured to me that the password had to do someting about “insurance”. The guy was anticipating what i was about to say and i blurted “Insurance! i want a choco bar and password is insurance!” The guy just gave me a blank stare and as he stretched out his head towards me probably to hear me correctly, i said again, “insurance!” Another puzzled stare. Then like some fairy godmother that suddenly appears with her magic wand to whack into my head, i remembered the magic word, i blurted “PHILAMLIFE!” The guy then recognizes the word and immediately hands me a few bars of chocolate while apologizing for failing to acknowledge the initial words i mentioned. “No problem bro, thanks for the chocolates!” Whew!
Kilometers Completed: 16k / Elapsed Time: 1:44:00 / Mind: Now struggling to keep pace. i hope my friends take my picture when i cross the finish line / Body: Weakened but still punching. A team member hands me a gel which made me more thirsty. / Overall: Will survive and a sub 2:30 is still a possibility. Gosh, why am i doing this?
The motorists were now up in arms along Buendia Avenue. Shouting matches between drivers and police marshals were now evident within every intersection. Car horns were blaring non-stop. Good thing that drinking water at every water station were flowing non stop too. Now the big push back to the Kalayaan flyover. I psyche myself to push my body atop without stopping and i will never look up when i trust my arms and feet forward. The sun is already in front of our faces and this would be a struggle. As i inched upwards, i see many runners walking, probably conserving energy for the last push. I reach the top and breathe a sigh of relief. i walked about 10 meters to catch my breath then continued to push forward, past St. Lukes Hospital, past Jolibee to my right and back to The Fort.
A half kilometer from the end of the race, i see my best buddy, June at the banks of the sidewalk ready to take my picture. he tells me that Darryl crossed the finished line about 20 minutes earlier. Great! i knew i was going to beat the 2:30 time i set to myself. then upon reaching the bend towards the straightway, about 150 meters from the finish, i felt a sharp twinge and then cramps enveloped my left calf muscle. Sheesh! i get passed by a few runners with 100 meters to go. But nothing could stop my determination to run those few meters so i continue my strides, not much lifting my legs and this help get me by the finish line.
There are high points in long distance running and when you train for it and persevere, the rewards are countless. I may not be fast like the ones before me but i’m still proud that i finished a decent place, in an advocacy race to save the whale sharks of Donsol. I had my adventure race…let the whale sharks have theirs.
Kilometers Completed: 21k / Finish Time: 2:22:38* / Mind: Ecstatic despite the cramps, floating in air / Body: Forgot to stretch and cool down. Will face consequences tomorrow / Overall: Thinking of running another half at the Greenfields Run!
*Official Time: (http://www.condurarun.com/results.html)
Place Race# Name Sex Official Time Pace
802 847 Rene Villarta M 2:21:53 6:46
Thanks to June, Vener/Xty, Jaymie, takbo.ph peeps for the pics